The packed lunch can be one of the most depressing meals to make and to eat, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We’ve discovered a magic formula for delicious lunches that are simple to make and put your leftovers to good use.
First, here are a few nuggets of advice to consider before we dive into the formula. Our method is guaranteed to make tasty, nutritious midday meals — worthy of getting giddy at your desk — a reality.
PRE-PLANNING PREVENTS POOR LUNCH CHOICES
Say that three times fast! Delicious, quick lunches start at the grocery store. Give some thought to ingredients that will be easy to pack when you’re navigating the aisles. Think about filling your pantry and refrigerator with lean proteins, whole grains and lots and lots of bright, fresh vegetables. Then, when you’re cooking up dinner, make a little extra so you can reinvent your leftovers as your next day’s lunch.
LETTUCE BEFRIEND THE SALAD
The Lunch-O-Matic formula is best executed as a flavorful salad because a big pile of leafy greens and vibrant raw vegetables are the perfect canvas to reinvent leftover grains and proteins. This approach ensures that you get plenty of fiber-full veggies, and you stay energized throughout the day. It’s a practical way of managing extra food — and capitalizing on your time, energy and resources put into meal preparations!
SOMEONE STOLE YOUR LUNCH?
If you find yourself without your prepacked lunch, you can still use the Lunch-O-Matic guidelines while standing at the salad bar.
THE LUNCH-O-MATIC FORMULA
Make a quick, healthy, satisfying and flavorful lunch in a snap.
3–6 ounces of protein: This can be leftover meat, seafood or tofu you cooked up the night before or something as easy as canned tuna, chickpeas or white beans. Steamed edamame is also a great choice, as are hard-boiled eggs.
3–4 cups of fresh, leafy greens: We suggest going as deep green as possible with kale, spinach, arugula and collards, but don’t forget about romaine, chopped Brussels sprouts, baby lettuces and herbs. There are also endive, radicchio and the sometimes overlooked chopped celery and shaved fennel to add flavor and texture.
1/2 cup–1 1/2 cups whole grains or starchy vegetables or fruits: These are carbohydrate-dense ingredients, and you can pick one kind or mix and match them all. Toss 1/2 cup of brown, black, red or white rice over your greens or even quinoa, bulgur, farro or oats. Roasted sweet potatoes, squash or root vegetables add texture and color. Sometimes we go crazy and add grains along with a little bit of sliced apple, pear or stone fruit to sweeten the deal.
1–2 tablespoons of simple dressing: We like a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil, but mix and match your favorite juices, vinegars and oils to make your own vinaigrettes. If you’re using very sour vinegars, a little honey or maple syrup will balance out the flavors and add intrigue to your salad.
1–2 tablespoons of textural toppings: Chopped almonds, hazelnuts or pecans work beautifully here, as do pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds. Perhaps you’re less of a crunch person and prefer creamy textures to finish your salads — try sliced avocado or crumbled cheese.
Give the Lunch-O-Matic a shot! We’re pretty certain it will transform your lunches — and maybe even the way you think about dinner and breakfast, too!